Dasara in 1930s: Arthur Miles (Post No. 3218)

dasaradinamalar

Compiled by London Swaminathan

Date: 4 October 2016

Time uploaded in London: 19-06

Post No.3218

Pictures are taken from various sources; thanks.

(latest Dasara pictures )

 

Contact swami_48@yahoo.com

 

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“Under the Aswija (September or October) moon, the Dasara festival begins. Dasara means ten nights and for ten nights and days the festival continues. A more elaborate spectacle than the festival of Dasara of Mysore can be seen nowhere in the world to-day. To say that the city is arrayed for carnival, gives no idea of the ten nights. Haroun-el-Rashid might have dreamed of something resembling it for ten of his Arabian Nights.

 

The palace of the Maharaja twinkles with thousands of electric lights. From the temple at the entrance gate a god, so decked in jewels and garlands that only his face remains visible, looks out at his worshippers, who are dressed in silks exquisite linen, and tissues of spun gold. The metallic clink of bracelets and necklaces is heard above the wail of age-old musical instruments, and glittering figures bring their offerings to the temple and prostrate themselves before the god. For all this the nights have a strange quiet, and it is as if the worshippers moved through an ancient dance lost in meditation.

 

The days blaze with colour, until the eyes fairly ache. It would seem that where nature is so passionately vivid nothing could be added to the picture. But streamers from posts for miles, and temporary structures along the streets are buried under multi-coloured silk and embroidery. On the tenth day (victory day), the Maharaja, seated on the State elephant, caparisoned with velvet, flowers and jewels, leads a procession through the streets.

 

It was customary in former years for the Prime Minister to ride beside him. But the present Prime Ministeris a Mohammedan, and the heir apparent sits beside the Maharaja today. The elephant’s huge ears are painted with designs such as one sees in old frescoes and he wears gold anklets studded with precious stones.

KPN photo

The cream coloured State cows, walking close together, wear  ropes of pearls and gold casings on their horns. Across their backs purple colour thrown, into which gold thread has been woven. Their hoofs have received a gold wash, and just above. them are clamped anklets, the value of which would balance a tottering empire. Men wearing dhoties as light as a cobweb, move along carrying garlands of flowers; followed by men in uniform and the Palace guard, resembling players in some gorgeous extravaganza. The orchestra plays something which might have been heard in the temple of Milita in old Babylon while the virgins sacrificed themselves to Venus. Sometimes the animals from the zoo have been known to join the procession. The whole pageant is as colourful and sensuous as an oriental carpet on which slept some barbaric princess of old.

 

Before the opening of the festival, an auspicious hour has been chosen for setting up the Maharaja’s throne in the Durbar hall. It is the throne of his house, andis used now only for the Dasara. Tradition says that the throne was once the possession of the Pandavas, the heroes of the Mahabharata, and that it later belonged to the Yadu dynasty of Sri Krishna, from which ancestry the present reigning family claim descent. It is also said, that after the English had conquered Seringapatam, the throne was rescued from Tippu Sultan’s lumber room and set up for the house of Wodiyar, in the state of Mysore. When the throne is set up in the Durbar hall, the image of a lion is placed on it; since it was on a lion that the goddess Kali went into the battle against the demons.

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On the occasions of the Dasara the goddess Kali destroys the demon of physical desire, who, in the form of a buffalo, is called Bandasura. The battle waged for nine days, and the victory to Kali came on the tenth day. One of the goddesses, fought beside Kali, slew the two demons Chanda and Manda. For this daring exploit the goddess was called Chamundi, the name being a combination of the names of the defeated demons. Chamundi hill, from which at night the city of Mysore with its thousands of lights reflected in the sacred tanks looks like an enchantment, is associated with the goddess. The Maharaja has a small temple on the top of the hill, to which he frequently retires to meditate. It is said that he is a holy man, who refuses to leave his beloved India to visit the materially-minded West.

 

For the first nine days of the Dasara the Maharaja cannot leave the palace. Standing before the image of the Goddess Chamundi, wearing a bracelet which is sacred to her, and a substantial growth of beard (during the nine days he must not shave), he is supposed to give himself up to the contemplation of his soul. No energy should be given to physical desire of any sort, consequently all his attention is concentrated upon the goddess and the occasion. The Maharaja is the central point of the Dasara, as according to the ancient laws of Manu the king was the representative of God. He was the will, the devotion of all his people, and during the nine nights, by his own purification, he purifies his subjects.

 

The festival of the nine nights is called the Navaratri. There is no difference between the two festivals, save that the Dasara celebrates its day of victory. On the ninth night European guests, who wish to pay their respects individually and receive floral acknowledgment, are received by the Maharaja. At the palace both Western and Eastern music can be heard each night of the festival.

 

All the aspects of the Dasara are feminine. It is the Sakta which in Mysore takes what is known as the right-hand path. This means that it does not descend into its lowest form. The people are apparently content with the magnificent pageant furnished by the Maharaja.

dasara-wrestling

The sakti, or energy of the masculine principle, goes into the female principle for destructive reasons. The female represents the male as the agent of destruction. Some woman, usually a virgin (although even widows have been known to officiate), represents the energy of Siva. Sometimes the woman is worshipped as the wife, sometimes as the mother. Behind all this objective expression lies the cosmic energy, of which Siva is supposed to be the active embodiment. The cosmic energy, which is believed by the Hindus to be masculine, cannot destroy. It has created the world and all that is in it, and when it seeks to destroy it must become feminine.

 

In this respect Hinduism does not differ very much from other religions. From time immemorial human imagination has given the woman the role of destruction. Even her power to destroy, according to the Hindus, had to be borrowed from man.  Each Hindu god shows his disposition through his sakti, or wife. Sivamust destroy in order to build, in order to build and is impersonated by the goddess, Kali. Brahma a milder god, uses his energy in the goddess Saraswati; while Vishnu, the lord of creation, uses Lakshmi as his vehicle of power.

 

 

At the Mysore Dasara wrestling bouts are staged which the Maharaja watches. Special attention is paid to the girls of unusual beauty, as they are considered special representatives of the sakti. The animals are grouped with the human population on this occasion, and all are purified; the State elephant and the State horse having a special ceremony.

dasara-majestic

After the State sword is worshipped, it is placed in a palanquin and sent with the State horse and elephant to the parade ground, three miles from the palace. At sunset a parade of troops is held on the ground. The scene is very dramatic, with its background of amber sky, and its veil of sparkling sun-mist. The Maharaja performs puja (worship) before the State sword and the banni-tree, and the sword is then sent back to the palace, accompanied by the elephant and the horse. The Maharaja follows by torchlight. The worship of the banni (Vanni) tree is an incident from the Mahabharata”.

 

(After this, the writer narrates the story of Arjuna hiding the weapons under the Vanni, tree and the principle of Sakti, parting of hair on the head of Hindu women and applying Kumkum etc.)

 

Mysore Palace - Dasara procession mural

Mysore Palace – Dasara procession mural

dasara color 3.jpg

 

–Subham–

 

 

 

 

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